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A 'Reluctant' Hero

The Early Show: Mick Settles
CBS/The Early Show
At first glance, Lisa Pisciotta and daughters, Brittany and Kassy, have a typical Midwestern life. But, As The Early Show's Debbye Turner discovered, they are fortunate to be alive.

On a desolate road in a thunderstorm, the Missouri woman and her daughters almost lost their lives several months ago.

"The sheriff even told me that we were lucky that three lives were not lost that night," said Lisa.

She was referring to April 19, when she and her girls set out on a familiar road to a relative's home.

"It was actually a really bad day," recalled Lisa. "I remember getting onto the highway and then all of a sudden it just started pouring down rain. I remember the kids in the back crying hysterically because of the rain, the way it was hitting the windows and I told them to sing 'Rain, rain go away.'"

The children sang until they found themselves in a ditch. Lisa had lost control of her car and it landed in a hole off the road. It was pitch black outside and the car was rapidly filling with water.

On the same road, Mick Settles was on his way to work at the nearby water treatment plant.

"I just glanced over and seen the taillight of Lisa's car down in the ditch," said Settles.

Moments later, he heard screams.

"The kids were screaming, 'Mommy, you gotta get us out of here, we're gonna drown, were gonna drown,' and by that time I was just hysterical," recalled Lisa. "I couldn't get my seatbelt off, so I was no help to them. So, I could only scream."

Settles did not know how to swim, but that didn't stop him from jumping into the rising floodwater.

He didn't realize the enormity of the situation until he got a good look inside Lisa's car that night.

"I could see Lisa in the car moving around, but I didn't know the girls were in the backseat until I got down there," explained Settles.

Settles pulled Lisa out first and then went back for the girls. He grabbed Brittany and then returned for Kassey.

"Whenever it was lightening I could see up the ditch and I could see the water running down and all the trash and stuff starting to build up behind the car," recalled Settles as tears of relief glazed his eyes."

Lisa says they would have died if Settles had not passed the ditch that night.

Five months after the accident, Lisa visited the site for the first time.

"It doesn't look that deep but it sure was that night," said Lisa.

Lisa says she owe Settles for her life and that of her girls. "i don't know if there's anything I could do that would be enough," said Lisa. She says the girls adore their hero.

Settles insists he simply did what he thought was right, and he says he feels uncomfortable with the label of hero.

"It's a big word for four letters," said Settles. "She needed help and I was the first one there."

But others disagree. At the water treatment plant where he works, the Environmental Management Corporation paid special tribute to Settles.

"We had what we call the 'Mick Settles Appreciation Day,'" said Settles' supervisor, Mike McKee. "We wanted him to know how proud we were of him."

The sheriff's department was so impressed that they honored Settles with a distinguished citation.

"Heroes don't always come in the capacity of a firefighter or a paramedic," said Deputy Beine of the St. Charles Sheriff's Department. "They can just be an average person that was in the right place at the right time and stopped and helped somebody that needed assistance."

Settles also received a Red Cross Life-Saver award and a proclamation from the City of Saint Charles. But it's the pictures of Brittany and Kassy and a card from Lisa that remind him why he went into the water that night.

The card reads, "You will always be my hero."

Months later, Settles still hasn't learned how to swim. He can only dog paddle and float on his back. He says he plans to take lessons in the future.